Seville, or Sevilla to the locals, is the capital of the Andalusian region and one of the largest cities in Spain. It was one of the most important Spanish cities during the years of the Spanish Empire, an economic powerhouse that received many of the goods and treasures from its far flung colonies.
I took the bus from Cordoba to Sevilla, arriving in the mid afternoon heat. I tried to follow the directions provided by my hostel, the Garden Backpacker, but they didn’t say where the bus stop was that I had to find. After wandering around in the sweltering heat for a few minutes too many, I decided that enough was enough and spent the best €9 to date on an air conditioned taxi. It was bliss.
I checked into my room and started to get settled in. There was a free walking tour on offer that afternoon, but the room beside us was in a chaotic uproar and it ends up that they had found bed bugs. I ended up tearing our room apart with the help of one of the other new arrivals and we found absolutely no sign of an infestation. Lockers were moved, mattresses inspected, curtains were checked… we seemed to be in the clear. Hooray!
Having already missed the bus tour, I took a short walk to a recommended restaurant and ordered a few tapas. I was already mourning the end of free tapas, as I had to pay a euro or two for each small plate that I ordered. Granada really should be the model for all cities.
The Garden Backpacker’s competitive advantage in hostelling was the nightly free sangria. From 8:30-9:30pm, every night, a magically refilling bucket of sangria would appear in the garden. I spent a lovely evening with a Kiwi, Victoria, from the bed above me, two American brothers and an American from Arizona, Scott, who I had actually met a few days earlier in Granada.
We left free sangria and headed off to the oldest tapas bar in Sevilla where we had a veritable feast for around €11. Three small beers each, some salmorejo, a plate of ham, cheese and chorizo and some delicious fried snacks. We also had the unusual experience of ordering in three languages as the waiter brought us English menus – except one was English, one was French and one was Spanish.
I really think that I’m going to be spoiled upon my return to Canada, with respect to ham. There is something so refreshing about eating ham that looks like it came from an animal, as opposed to what we would find in a Subway sandwich.
Salmorejo is a cold tomato soup, similar in concept to gazpacho, but much thicker with olive oil and garlic as part of the base and hard boiled eggs sprinkled on top. I didn’t realize why salmorejo was thicker until I participated in the hostel’s vegetarian tapas night and saw that the chef blended copious amounts of bread with the tomatoes, making this much more of a carbohydrate bomb than I ever could have imagined. It’s basically everything you need in a meal – fats, vegetables, carbs and protein.
There was an Argentina-Bosnia World Cup match on that night, so we decided to head down towards a busy street that the American brothers had found. En route, we found a small bar promising craft beer, playing the game on multiple screens and packed tightly with Argentina supporters. Throwing out previous plan to the wind, we headed into the bar and quickly got caught up in the fray as Argentina won the game. We even learned the words to an Argentine soccer song – it was hard not to, as the Argentinian fans repeated it over… and over… and over again.
I did a walking tour the next morning, but will hold off on talking about that in this post since things seem to be headed in a much more food and drink related direction. The guide recommended a tapas bar during the tour, pointing it out as we walked by, so I went with Victoria plus an Australian we met on the tour, Eleanor, and a French Canadian guy who was really focused on eating (not talking)!
We decided to order a few half plates, known as the “media racion”, in order to try a bit of everything. The waiters were very helpful and actually refused to give us the half order in one case as he said that we had ordered too much food! He downgraded the plate we requested and, sure enough, he was right – the portion was gigantic.
That night, I went with Scott and Victoria to the Metropol Parasol, where we met up with Eleanor. This is a gigantic wooden structure located in the middle of Sevilla that provides sweeping views around the city. It is also commonly referred to as the “mushrooms”, likely due to the weird shape.
There are multiple levels to the Mushrooms, and we had a bit of an issue finding where we had to be. The ground level contains bars, restaurants and a few shops while there is a second floor where you can walk around the stem of the mushrooms. Our goal was the very top of the structure which had a bar and a pathway you could take around the top of the observation deck. In order to reach this part, you actually had to go the basement which contained the ticket office and a small museum showcasing some Roman ruins.
It costs €3 to go to the top of the observation deck… but the price includes a free drink at the top! It’s only supposed to cover a drink at the bar, but when we were up there it was quiet enough that they didn’t mind we took a seat at one of the tables overlooking the city.
By the end of the construction the building, which had been budgeted to cost around €50 million, rang in a total much closer to €100 million. To give it some context, there would need to be 333,333 visits at €3 each to pay off the costs. If you subtract the average cost of a drink at about €1.50… well… best not to do that math. The project was controversial due to the design, the size and the cost and although I enjoyed visiting the structure I can’t blame the locals for being unhappy with the process.
The bars and restaurants at the base of the Mushrooms seemed to be doing a brisk business although the prices were a bit higher than the surrounding businesses. I’m going to assume that rents are a bit higher when one is located directly inside a tourist attraction. I do highly recommend visiting, however, since it’s actually a great value when you include the fact that there’s a free beverage on offer. The views weren’t that shabby either!
So far, so good Sevilla…